N.J. lieutenant governor raises stakes in casino rivalry with Pa.

    New Jersey’s tourism industry is showing signs of improvement for the first time in three years. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said Thursday the industry grew by eight-tenths of a percent last year to $35.5 billion.

    However, Atlantic City’s casino industry continues to be a concern.

    Gaming analysts say Pennsylvania could overtake Atlantic City in casino revenue as soon as next year. But Guadagno told the annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism that the Garden State is up to the challenge.

    “I will die trying to fix Atlantic City before I let our neighbors in Pennsylvania overtake the revenue generation potential of Atlantic City,” she vowed and her crowd applauded.

    The director of the Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Richard Stockton College said it may take a while to revitalize Atlantic City. Israel Posner, who said the opening of the new Revel casino next year will have a positive effect, said he expects real growth in the industry by 2013.

    New Jersey Travel Industry Association president Joann DelVescio said she is optimistic about the coming summer season.

    “Along the coastal communities, the rentals are up. So that’s a good sign. Hotels and motels are telling is as they’re opening people are calling. So that’s all very positive information for us,” said DelVescio. “That means people are looking to vacation in New Jersey in the coming season.”

    Tourism officials say high gas prices may cause people to vacation closer to home. That may benefit New Jersey

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